BY EBUN SESSOU
RAGING WAR AGAINST COMMERCIAL MOTORCYCLE OPERATORS
Mr. Rotimi Olowo, member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Shomolu Constituency, said the activities of ‘Okada’ operators pose security challenge to the state as they were notorious for committing atrocities.
Hon Olowo who explained that their operations were only restricted told Saturday Vanguard in this interview that the State government is working hard to compete with other developed cities in the world. Excerpt
Presently, Okada have been banned from operating in some major roads in the city, what does this portends for the movement of people in the State?
The fact that the country cannot but focus on the relevance of security makes it important to tackle issue surrounding Okada business in the State. For me, there is more danger this particular profession poses than its benefits.
While, the country cannot close its eye against the safety of its citizens, it is important to note that the issue of security is very important; ‘okada’ (motorcycle) riders are posing security threats. The fact that their operations were not restricted in the past, they therefore engaged in some misconduct including killing, stealing among other atrocities.
Therefore, its restriction from major roads, would help reduce armed robbery and other social vices in the State. As a responsible government, we are not saying they should not operate; we have only restricted their movements.
Their operations have been considered as the only alternative to overcome the issue of traffic jam in the State?
People should cultivate the habit of walking instead of riding on motorcycle. This will enable them to be time conscious. For instance, anyone who knows that he or she would resume at his or her workplace as early as 7a.m, he or she would have woke up around 5 am to prepare for the challenges ahead.
Besides, some of the problems encountered on a daily basis including traffic can also be traced to the activities of the ‘okada’ operators. Secondly, lands in Lagos are 3,577 square kilometers that is the length and breadth of the state and 455 kilometers as water body.
Then, we have over 18 million people in the state with about 1 million vehicles plying the roads in the state and this situation affects the life span of our roads.
Everything has its own life span that is why we are talking of mass transit, we talk of water transportation, road transportation and rail transportation that is what we are doing.
If you look at Ikorodu; for example in Badore, we have a jetty there, if you go to Ipakodo, we have a jetty there, there is another one coming up in Osborne, we will have in Mile 2, and Badagry, so, they are parts of our inter connectivity.
Then, BRT would be expanded, if you look at the structure of Ikorodu, it can accommodate 200 buses, so what the state government is doing is that, if you want to go by sea, you will take BRT down to the jetty, then you go on water, the same goes to Osborne or Badore.
As I am speaking with you, Lagos State is highly polluted due to human activities and life expectancy in Nigeria is not more than 47 because of our activities. We do not engage ourselves in so much rest, exercise and at the same time, we inhale carbon-monoxide everyday. Everybody is eager to come to Lagos of about 20 million people.
This means that, if the State is not sanitised, with rules and regulations that would checkmate the people, things would go worse. Lagos of today is different to what was obtainable some 30 years ago. When we talk about sustainability, we are talking about our activities to bring about development.
So, we are concerned with the security and health of the people. A lot of people came to Lagos with the belief that everything is a bed of roses, right now, they cannot sustain themselves, so, they don’t have anything to do in Lagos.
People live in New York, but it is very expensive to live there, you can’t just go to California and say you want to live there, it is expensive because that is where all the stars in America live, so, if you cannot live in New York, you can go to Chicago or Maryland, and Florida is expensive too. If what you are doing is not relevant to the socio-economic activities of Lagos, we have the hinterlands there.
If you are a welder, an artisan and your services are required for building, why can’t you go to Ikorodu, Badagry or Epe, those are the suburbs, where buildings are coming up and you cannot compare the cost of living there to Ikoyi, Lekki or Lagos Island.
You see doctors, company directors in the United States of America going on buses; they park their cars and go on public transport. In London, their public transport is about the best in the world, people go through buses and in some cases, train.
That is what we are looking at, we are fashioning ours close to London because we have the same socio-economic reality with them. London is the commercial nerve centre of the United Kingdom, and it is small in size, same goes for Lagos State.
On bad roads, if the number of vehicles on our roads is reduced, and we now use mass transit, obviously it would reduce the frequency on the road and it would help us to work.
We have limited resources and contending needs, we talk about health, education, housing, transportation, roads and water and these can be realised if we have unlimited resources like we have $2 billion or $5 billion.
We are doing the rail projects in Badagry and others with our limited resources. It is not that the project is funded by the World Bank; government cannot put food on our table every time, we have to sacrifice, and we need to look beyond our nose.
You once said that if unemployment is not checked, the youth are in trouble. But, now, thousands of families, youths, women and children have been affected by this action?
I am afraid things are turning the other way round. Some of the Okada operators migrated to Lagos because their activities were halted. Okada activities have been banned in some States and because of this, everybody sees Lagos as a rescue place.
Everybody wants to come here and they are not helping our commerce, they disguise as ‘okada’ riders, in the night and turn to other things, they are unregulated. You won’t know who-is-who, some of them don’t even live in Lagos in the day, they come here, but they live outside the state.
We have given them consideration. When they ply inner roads, the ‘okada’ riders would know themselves, a situation, where everybody is operating on the express and you don’t know one another will be eliminated. If they see any stranger, they would drive him away.